Summer - a time to enjoy patios
by Sandy Lindsay

April 13, 2016

Town Council

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Summer is just around the corner and, with it, comes the time to enjoy sitting out on a patio.

(file photo)

Niagara on the Lake

Saugeen Shores Council recently approved a new 'encroachment' policy for restaurants and cafés to expand for more summer sidewalk patio enjoyment on to municipal public land and/or parking spaces, but not without several concerns being raised by members of Council.

Bart Toby, Manager of Development Services, met with the Business Improvement Associations (BIA) of both Port Elgin and Southampton to discuss the proposed changes and the groups have requested the authority to approve or reject an application via a letter to the town, which concerned Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber.

"Why would we (town/Council) give the BIAs the right to basically veto an application?  This usurps our role as a Council. Why are we giving another body some kind of authority over public land? I find this very very difficult to support.  " said Huber.

Councilor Neil Menage's concern was over the loss of parking spaces. "Notwithstanding the benefits for the community, particularly in the downtown core of Port Elgin, I was at odds with the BIA.  This will take parking spots away on side streets. I suggest that for every parking space taken away a new one is created. "

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau, said that simple things such as heaters and lights have created an obstacle for almost two years "... they are allowed everywhere except here.  We need to get this approved before summer so that business owners can have the reasonable use of a patio with normal provisions.  We have a good working agreement and I think it will work well and supports the BIAs who would like to see this policy approved."

"I think there is a concern about losing parking spots in the downtown core, which is where these patios will go," said Councilor Rich.  Toby confirmed that the patios will not be allowed anywhere on Hwy. 21 but only on side streets.

Huber again reiterated her concern that Council was giving another 'body' authority over municipal property. "If an application doesn't have a letter from the BIA saying that it is supportive, then that application fails.  We are not letting neighbourhoods decide what goes into a neighbourhood when it comes to home industries, so why are we doing that here?  The idea that an outside agency can say what can happen on municipal property and, if they don't approve, then an application is null and void -  is usurping our role as Council."

Councilor Cheryl Grace suggested an amendment that an applicant have the ability to come before Council and that Council would have the authority to override the BIA's position.

Mayor Mike Smith said that Council is the approval authority and not the BIA and that an application could be circulated to the BIA to make comment but Council would have final approval.

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Charbonneau said that the BIA approval however, was a critical section in the policy and that if the ability was removed from the BIA to object then it would be "undermining the BIA in drafting this policy and will probably not be met with cheering and happiness.  I think we could end up with angry delegations.  These are not outside agencies, they are municipal boards and boards have powers that Council has delegated ... and we do divest authorities.  The BIAs are municipal boards with interest in what happens in the downtown cores and I have no difficulty giving them the authority of what happens there."

Grace also said that she agreed with Huber and also had concerns that, if an applicant had 'issues' with the BIA or was not well-liked or popular and the application was not supported ... "I am uncomfortable with this without an override opportunity."

Toby said that if an application failed at the BIA level, an applicant could always come to Council who had the ability to override.

"This is suggesting that business owners, who have a pecuniary interest in a lot of different ways with downtown activity, have the chance to say 'yay' or 'nay' to another business owner and that's not fair," added Huber. "This is enabling the BIA to tell somebody 'no you can't do it' and this create a stumbling block where they would then have to come before us (Council).  I have no problem with the BIA putting a comment in to the mix but to enable business owners with a pecuniary interest to tell another business owner they are not being supported, then I don't get that and will not support it.  I can however, support an amendment that says information can be circulated to the BIA for comment." 

Mayor Mike Smith said he did not think it would ever be an issue.

The 'Encroachment Policy' with amendment was carried and includes provision lights, propane heaters, umbrellas and, in some cases, raised decking adjacent to a restaurant.

Nothing is ever free however and, therefore, those applying for a patio encroachment will have to provide proof of $5 million in insurance liability and pay a $250 encroachment fee in addition to a $100 annual fee.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016